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Robotics Today: Davide Scaramuzza on Autonomous, Agile Micro Drones: Perception, Learning, and Cont

November 13, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

“Robotics Today — A series of technical talks” is a virtual robotics seminar series jointly offered by the Stanford School of Engineering and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is a technical talk live captioned and streamed via Web and Twitter (@RoboticsSeminar), followed by an interactive discussion between the speaker and a panel of faculty, postdocs, and students that will moderate audience questions.

Abstract: Autonomous quadrotors will soon play a major role in search-and-rescue, delivery, and inspection missions, where a fast response is crucial. However, their speed and maneuverability are still far from those of birds and human pilots. High speed is particularly important: since drone battery life is usually limited to 20-30 minutes, drones need to fly faster to cover longer distances. To do so, they need faster sensors and algorithms. Human pilots take years to learn the skills to navigate drones. What does it take to make drones navigate as good or even better than human pilots? Autonomous, agile navigation through unknown, GPS-denied environments poses several challenges for robotics research in terms of perception, planning, learning, and control. In this talk, I will show how the combination of both model-based and machine learning methods united with the power of new, low-latency sensors, such as event cameras, can allow drones to achieve unprecedented speed and robustness by relying solely on onboard computing.

Bio: Davide Scaramuzza is a Professor of Robotics and Perception at both departments of Informatics (University of Zurich) and Neuroinformatics (joint between the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich), where he directs the Robotics and Perception Group. His research lies at the intersection of robotics, computer vision, and machine learning, using standard cameras and event cameras, and aims to enable autonomous, agile navigation of micro drones in search and rescue applications. After a Ph.D. at ETH Zurich and a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, he led the European project sFly, which introduced the PX4 autopilot and pioneered visual-SLAM-based autonomous navigation of micro drones in GPS-denied environments. He was then part of the DARPA FLA program (Fast Lightweight Autonomy) to research autonomous, agile navigation of micro drones in GPS-denied environments. For his research contributions to autonomous, vision-based, drone navigation and event cameras, he won prestigious awards, such as the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award, a Google Research Award, the KUKA Innovation Award, the European Young Research Award, and several paper awards. He co-authored the book "Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots". He has served as a consultant for the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency's Fukushima Action Plan on Nuclear Safety and several drones and computer-vision companies. In 2015, he cofounded Zurich-Eye, today Facebook Zurich, which developed the visual-inertial SLAM system running in Oculus Quest VR headsets. He was also the strategic advisor of Dacuda, today Magic Leap Zurich. In 2020, he cofounded SUIND, which develops camera-based safety solutions for commercial drones. 

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